I recently had the privilege to judge at The UK Financial Services Experience Awards. It was inspiring to witness first-hand how leading companies deliver strong customer experience (CX) in order to boost their brand, improve sales and forge lasting relationships with their customers.

I wanted to share some of the great ways that these companies implement a strong CX strategy with you-here are 5 quick lessons that I learned from the awards.

Create emotional connections

The most effective CX strategies are achieved when a real-life emotional connection is made.

In order to truly understand the needs of your customers you must first be able to connect with them on a personal level. Automated messages and technology will help you to speed up your service and allow you to reply efficiently – but a human touch will always be more effective.

Human interactions allow you to pick up on your customer’s tone, mood and most importantly help you to empathise with their needs so you can better serve them.

One of the eventual winners demonstrated this perfectly by telling a gripping story about a recently widowed woman. They spoke sincerely about a conversation she had with one of their operators, where she revealed that her husband recently passed. The woman revealed that her daughter always said that her father walked like a penguin and she often performed comical impersonations of him. This made such an impact on the operator that he adopted a real-life penguin for the family on behalf of the company.

By implementing this consumer-first approach you will build meaningful and lasting relationships with your customers – this will result in you securing loyal customers who believe in your brand.

Embed company culture

The way you deliver your customer service and ultimately your CX is largely influenced by your company’s culture and behaviour.

Your company will have a unique culture and set of values that you must try to instil into the workers. To ensure that your company values run throughout the business, you must start from the top down and incorporate them in every aspect of the company’s work. This is the best way to show consistency and ensure that every system and practice has a clear methodology behind it – your staff will be more engaged if they are made aware of the reasons behind every process too.

When your employees believe in the business and buy into everything the company represents they are far more likely to feel empowered. An empowered employee will ‘go the extra mile’ for you, they will take ownership, resolve problems and they will be strong representatives for your company. New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Simon Sinek states

“Empowered employees have the power to make decisions without a supervisor. They are entitled to go off script, bend the rules, do what they see fit if they believe it is the right thing to do for the customer. More than any other kind of employee, the empowered employee is able to create a feeling of true customer service that ultimately yields much greater customer loyalty,”

Customers are very intuitive. They will pick up on cues and easily establish if your customer service reps sincerely want to help and whether or not they believe in your product/service. These traits are essential if you want to build trust with your customers and keep the engaged.

Measure insights and take action

By listening to your customers and tracking their data you will uncover key innovations that you can use to transform business performance.

If you understand your customers as individuals, you can tailor your sales, marketing and customer service strategies to cater to their needs. The most effective way to achieve this is by tracking and measuring their ‘online footprints.’ This will highlight the relevant insights that will uncover your customer’s motivations, interests and help you to learn what products/services they might be interested in. By effectively utilising this data, you can guide your future product development in the right direction.

A far more effective way to measure your customer’s insights and take appropriate action is through the use of people analytics tools. By utilising this innovative technology, you will be able to gather large samples of your customer’s feedback in a timely and efficient manner.

Many companies still use annual surveys to collect their customer’s feedback. This dated and highly ineffective approach won’t provide you with an accurate snapshot of your company’s situation. Advances in pulse survey technology mean you can collect real-time data that specifies your customer’s feedback regularly, whilst allowing you to identify visible actions from their insights. People analytics tools will also assist you to identify and isolate issues before they escalate.

Pulse surveys ensure you can do more than simply monitor the profit and loss of your company’s finances – it also involves measuring people and leadership– which (when combined) enables you to get a 360 degree view of your business in order to better serve your customers and increase revenue.

Be innovative

Innovation is all about developing new ways to increase your products’ value – it is essential for the success of any organisation.

If you want your organisation to successfully adapt to new conditions and ideas, then you must first ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal. An effective way to give your staff the confidence to come up with innovative CX concepts is to support them by providing thorough assessments of their ideas. This will result in your staff feeling valued, which will encourage them to continue thinking of new ways to improve your CX. This will also provide you with the chance to clearly state your vision and goals, which will ensure your staff are more commercially aware and will therefore have a better understanding of your business and its wider market or sector.

By adopting this approach, you will provide everyone with the opportunity to be innovative -this is particularly important as some of the best ideas will be generated from the bottom up.

Another effective way to instil innovation into your organisation is to create departments that are tasked solely to develop new ways to drive customer experience. This will ensure that none of your existing processes will be impacted and will help you to bring new innovations into your wider business to improve CX.

Face negative feedback

If a customer complains about your product or service, writes poor feedback on your social channels, or leaves an angry voice message then you must respond accordingly and address their concerns – only then will you win back their trust. If you take the easy way out and delete their comments or ignore their concerns, then you are adopting the ‘ostrich approach’ – whereby you stick your head in the sand in the hope that everything will pass you by. This will result in you losing valuable opportunities to have dialogue with your customers and try to remedy their concerns.

If you want your organisation to thrive, then you must encourage your staff to take ownership of their decisions. This will ensure they take the initiative to do what is right for your company and it will be reflected in their customer service too. A 2010 Gallup study suggested that “employees with positive attitudes towards their workplaces carried those attitudes over to customers and engaged in discretionary efforts necessary to deliver high levels of customer service.”

By instilling a culture of accountability throughout your organisation you will ensure that your staff will push to meet deadlines, attend meetings on time and be punctual. This approach will also serve to create a culture where your workers are more engaged and therefore want to be helpful – this will significantly improve your CX. By ensuring your staff are accountable for their actions you can improve competency, performance and productivity.

Optimising your customer experience must be one of the foundations of your business strategy. The most successful companies have a firm grasp of what a good CX strategy entails and ensure that their staff are actively involved in every step of the process. You can have the best tech in the world – but it will count for nothing if you don’t have workers that believe in your company.

If you want your entire workforce to pull in the same direction. Clearly set out your intentions for the future of the company and make it clear that proactive and innovative ideas are very welcome. This will empower your employers, imbed a team-based culture throughout your company and ultimately boost your CX and profits.

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